When people think of minimalism, they usually think of de-cluttering. In the mind of the general populace, a minimalist is a person who lives with as few material possessions as possible. The common stereotype of the minimalist is a person living in an apartment with stark white walls, a single chair, a piece of modern art, and five articles of clothing. While this extreme might indeed exist, people will find that the majority of minimalists are simply those who have set boundaries for what they allow in their lives and abide staunchly by those boundaries. If something does not align with their values, minimalists will not allow that thing in their lives.
The Christian is called to do the same thing in the Bible. God has set forth standards in His Word, and if something does not align with or meet those standards, it is a reasonable expectation that Christians will not allow those things in their lives.
1 John 2:15 tells us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
The idea here is that the Christian should have his or her priorities straight. The world and the things of the world, whether they are good or bad, should never be on the throne of the Christian’s heart. The Christian is free to enjoy these good things, such as family, relationships, food, art, etc., but we are to understand that these things have the potential to become idols if not put in their proper place in relation to God.
Material possessions and money are classic examples of good “things of the world” that can easily become idols. Minimalism offers a perspective on material goods and social media that is consistent with biblical teaching. Minimalism asserts that material possessions are only good if they align with one’s values and beliefs and augment one’s experience in life. For many Christians, this means it may be time to address compulsive purchases or the desire to be rich.
Paul highlights the danger of placing too much value in material wealth in his first letter to Timothy.
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
The same can be said now of social media. While social media might not bring material wealth to the average user, it gives us the ability to create a new identity and present ourselves to the public as whoever we want them to see. Jealousy over someone else’s lifestyle, relationships with spiritually harmful people, and the incessant flood of unsolicited opinions and outrage are just a few of the negative products of an otherwise harmless, even beneficial, tool.
The things of the world have an appropriate place in relation to God, and the tendency of the flesh and the work of the enemy will always seek to inflate these things in the life of the Christian, promising fulfillment and happiness “if you can get just a little more”. The words of Jesus echo loudly in the emptiness of the world’s promises: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal…” (Matthew 6:19).
Minimalism has been gaining popularity in the secular world for over a decade now, and it is no wonder why. People know that there is something more to life than pleasure, pacification, and Epicurean living. They want something to help them find fulfillment because the world constantly leaves them feeling empty. To them, minimalism is a voice of common sense. "Avoid the things that distract you and focus on the things that make you happy, healthy, or more useful."
For the Christian, there is only one thing worth cutting the excess and pursuing hard after, and that is God Himself.